Essay on On the Issue of Hate Speech

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Almost all Americans today have heard of the First Amendment and its protection of free speech. This protection allows a free exchange of ideas among the members of society. Without it, Americans would not be able to voice their criticisms against anything without having a fear of being arrested. However, in the past, the government has limited this fundamental right several times. During World War I, Charles Schenck passed out fliers criticizing the national draft. He was arrested, and the Supreme Court decided that his arrest was acceptable because his actions posed 'clear and present danger'. Other limits exist on libel and slander. Now, with these limits enacted in the past, and with a growing multicultural society in America, a debate…show more content…
In the article of Jonathan Rauch, the writer of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, questions are posed on such a line, such as, "Who determines trigger thresholds for actionable speech, and on what basis?" (Rauch (Brookings), Jonathan. Washingtonpost.com) This shows how drawing a fair and balanced line would be a futile task. Determining the threshold of acceptable free speech would be entirely subjective, since a single person's opinion on what is acceptable and what is hateful varies greatly among society. In another aspect of free speech, the Supreme Court defended a man who was arrested for lying about receiving a Medal of Honor. According to the justices, the Stolen Valor Act "was overly broad and posed a threat to First Amendment rights" (Dao, James Washingtonpost.com). Legislators who thought the Stolen Valor Act’s definitions were acceptable passed the bill; however, the Supreme Court disagreed with the law and supported the defendant. Drawing a line that would deal fairly on issues with regards to free speech is almost impossible, since other people with different convictions on acceptable speech would contest any lines that any person attempts to draw. However, drawing a line poses another major issue, not only on how it should be drawn, but also on the consequences of drawing it. Another problem with establishing a threshold is that while the definition may be fixed, its interpretation would constantly change.

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